The father of the former U.S. intelligence contractor who leaked details of the government's clandestine surveillance programs said he believes his son, under certain conditions, would be willing to return to the United States to face espionage charges.
In an interview aired on NBC's Today show
Friday, Lonnie Snowden said that through his lawyer he has told U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder that his son Edward would probably return home if the government promises to let him be free in advance of a trial, not prohibit him from speaking publicly about the case and let him choose where he would be tried.
There was no immediate response from the Justice Department. But criminal suspects in the U.S. do not have a choice in where they stand trial, and judges usually make the decisions whether to free suspects until their trials start and whether they should be limited in what they can talk about publicly.
Edward Snowden fled to Hong Kong and then disclosed key documents about the surveillance programs being conducted by the U.S.'s secretive National Security Agency to thwart terrorism. Last weekend, Snowden flew to Russia and now is believed to be staying in a transit zone at a Moscow airport, while seeking asylum in Ecuador.
The U.S. is seeking his extradition, but Russian President Vladimir Putin said he has no intention of turning the 30-year-old Snowden over to American authorities.
The elder Snowden said he did not believe his son had committed treason. But he acknowledged that he "has in fact broken U.S. law, in a sense that he has released classified information."
The father said, "And if folks want to classify him as a traitor, in fact he has betrayed his government. But I don't believe that he's betrayed the people of the United States."